R.I. test scores see no significant change

A new policy mandates a 'proficiency' score on an assessment exam as a graduation requirement

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Test scores for Rhode Island high schoolers have improved slightly since last year on the New England Common Assessment Program, according to data from the Rhode Island Department of Education released Friday.

The department collected scores on the math and reading portions of the assessment program — a standardized test administered to students in grades three to eight, as well as high school juniors, in several New England states. Scores for elementary and middle school students remained the same from last year, according to the press release.

But the data show minority and special-needs students continue to lag behind their peers in standardized testing, the Providence Journal reported.

Forty percent of students in the class of 2014 failed to score at least “partially proficient” on the NECAP in 2012, according to the report. New requirements under Rhode Island’s “Common Core State Standards” — which went into effect this past year — stipulate that juniors must score either at or above this level in order to graduate from the state’s high schools.

The Rhode Island Board of Regents adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010 — one year after famed but controversial Deborah Gist was named the state’s Commissioner of Education — in order to prepare graduating students for entry into college or workforce education programs, according to the RIDE website.

Alternative tests and waivers are available to students seeking to graduate who are unable to score at the required level, according to the press release. Schools are also obligated to provide supplementary instruction to students unable to pass the NECAP, according to the release.

“We hope and expect to see continued improvement for all student groups in the coming years as we implement the new Common Core State Standards and as our accountability system focuses ever-greater attention on closing achievement gaps,” Gist said at a press conference Friday.

The state’s four-year graduation rate remained at 77 percent, according to the report. There were also marginal increases in the five-year and six-year graduation rates, according to data released by Gist and Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 at the press conference.

The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers criticized Gist earlier this month for proposing sanctions against school districts that based their employment policies on the length of a teacher’s career and not the state education policy, WPRI reported.

Gist’s policies have garnered criticism from teachers unions in the past for their emphasis on the role of test scores in evaluating teacher performance.

“I appreciate all that educators across Rhode Island are doing to prepare our students for success,” Gist said at the press conference.

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